Joseph Stokes, Celia Wells and Mary Harris

Joseph Stokes, 25, married Celia Eliza Ann Wells, 17, on 1 July 1856 in the 'Chapel at the Forest, Circular Head', in the Horton district. According to the registration, Joseph couldn't write, making his mark instead, while Celia signed the register. The witnesses were W. Wells, probably Celia's father, Marianne Gale and Charles Bellinger.1 Celia was born about 1839, based on her stated age at marriage, the daughter of William Wells and Mary Ward. According to one source, Celia was born on 29 May 1839 in Adelaide, South Australia.2

Marriage Registration for Joseph Stokes and Celia Wells

Marriage Registration for Joseph Stokes and Celia Wells
Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office

At this point we can already point out a major difference between Joseph Stokes of Circular Head, and Joseph Stokes the convict. The convict could read and write, and yet at his marriage Joseph Stokes made his mark. It may be possible through lack of use for someone to lose the ability to write, but it seems unlikely.

Joseph and Celia's first child was Sarah Ann Stokes, born on 8 January 1857 in the Horton district. Sarah was baptised on 22 February 1857 in Stanley.3 Another daughter, Selina Margaret Elizabeth Stokes, was born on 28 November 1858 in the Horton district. The birth registration was for an unknown female. Selina was baptised on 25 December 1858 in Stanley.4

Another two daughters followed. Emily Jane Stokes was born on 13 September 1860 in the Horton district and was baptised on 28 October 1860 in Stanley.5 Mary Jemima Stokes was born on 28 October 1862 in the Horton district and baptised on 7 November 1862 in Stanley.6 All the baptisms to this date recorded the child's father as Joseph Stokes, a farmer at Forest.

After the births of four girls, Joseph and Celia were probably relieved when their next two children were boys. This is not to appear sexist, but acknowledges the enormous amount of work required when running a largely self-subsistence farm where labour was distributed throughout the family. William Henry Stokes was born on 19 August 1864 in the Horton district and baptised on 24 November 1864 in Stanley.7 Thomas John Stokes was born on 28 August 1866 in the Horton district and baptised on 23 September 1866 in Stanley.8 Both baptisms recorded Joseph Stokes as a farmer at Duck River.

In the 1866 Directory of Tasmania Richard Stokes is recorded as a farmer at Duck River.9 This is the earliest reference to Richard. All the birth registrations to date recorded the father as Joseph Stokes. In May 1868 we find the earliest reference to Richard Stokes in the news when Richard submitted a tender to repair the Duck river wharf which was accepted:

A meeting was also held at Mr Ford's store on Saturday, May 9th inst., at which all the members were present, to open the tenders for repairs to the Duck river wharf. Three were received ; that of John Jones being £15, and J. E. Alford's and Richard Stokes' £12 each. The latter was accepted by lot.10

Is this Richard Stokes the same Joseph Stokes that was fathering a prodigious amount of children? According to later researchers it is but why the two names have been linked in this way has not been revealed. As Joseph Stokes he was recorded as the father of a further four children, all boys, as follows.

Frederick James Stokes was born on 31 August 1868 in the Horton district. Frederick was baptised on 25 September 1869 with his father recorded as a farmer at Duck River.11 Charles Arthur Stokes was born on 6 December 1870 in the Horton district. Charles was baptised on 12 February 1871 and his father was once again described as a farmer at Forest.12 George Edward Stokes was born on 17 May 1873 in the Horton district. George was baptised on 22 Jun 1873 with his father described as a labourer in Forest.13 James Lewis Stokes was born on 3 September 1874 in the Horton district. James was baptised on 15 November 1874 and his father was recorded as a farmer in Kings Forest.14

It is not known at this point if these variations in location represent different addresses or not. Forest and Kings Forest were probably interchangeable, although Duck River possibly represented another location. Events were often recorded as occurring at the district level which in this case would have been called Horton.

Celia Eliza Ann Stokes, nee Wells, died on 6 October 1874 in the Horton district at the stated age of 36. The cause of death was recorded as consumption, the archaic term for tuberculosis. Joseph Stokes registered the event on the same day, signing the register with his mark. He was noted to be a farmer living in Forest.15

Joseph was left as the sole provider for his large family of 10 children, Sarah (17), Selina (16), Emily (14), Mary (12), William (10), Thomas (8), Frederick (6), Charles (4), George (1) and James (an infant). The older children would have no doubt taken on the role of carers for their younger siblings, but as James was only a month old Joseph may have also required the services of a wet nurse.

The considerable strain placed on the family at this time was compounded when Charles Arthur Stokes died three months later on 18 January 1875 in the Horton district at the stated age of 4. The stated cause of death was convulsions but the underlying cause is unknown. Once again Joseph registered his son's death, making his mark instead of signing his name.16 The child may have had an infection causing a catastrophic rise in temperature, or there may have been a more chronic condition such as epilepsy.

In September 1877 Richard Stokes, along with a large number of other Circular Head settlers, signed an open letter to William Robert Giblin, the Colonial Treasurer, protesting his treatment at the hands of some parties in the press and congratulating him on his return to parliament.17 Such letters seemed a common practice at the time as a means of expressing public opinion.

Around four or five years after Celia's death Joseph Stokes married fro a second time to Mary Ann Margaret Harris on 3 April 1878 in the "House of Mrs. Harris" in the Horton district.18 Mary was born about 1860, a date calculated from her age stated at death. Joseph and Mary Ann's first child was Joseph Minden Stokes, born on 29 June 1880 in the Horton district and baptised on 10 October 1880 in Stanley.19

Marriage Registration for Joseph Stokes and Mary Harriss

Marriage Registration for Joseph Stokes and Mary Harriss
Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office

By the end of 1880 Joseph was the father of eleven children, with at least one of them deceased. The oldest child, Sarah Ann Stokes (25) married George Henry Tatlow (25) on 18 January 1882 in St. John's Church in Launceston. Sarah was described as a domestic servant and George was a blacksmith. The Church of England service was conducted by Marcus Blake Brownrigg and the witnesses were Alexander Guy, Emily Jane Stokes and Isabella Smith.20

TATLOW-STOKES.--On January 18th, at St. John's Church Launceston, by the Rev. Canon Brownrigg, George Tatlow, to Sarah Stokes, both of Circular Head.21

[Marcus Brownrigg] ...was elected to the cure of St John's, Launceston, where [Charles] Bromby thought 'an earnest evangelical preacher' was needed because 'the people are becoming scattered, the sick are unvisited, and all pastoral work is suspended'. Brownrigg was inducted as rector on 2 August 1868. With a fine physique and boundless energy, he travelled widely in northern Tasmania, often sacrificing sleep and rest in his ministry.22

Joseph's family was still growing however and over the next six years he and Mary Ann had a further three children. Helen May Stokes was born on 5 May 1883 in the Horton district and baptised on 7 October 1883 in Stanley.23 Arthur Forester Stokes was born on 26 December 1885 in the Horton district and baptised on 8 August 1886.24 Henry Alexander Stokes was born on 24 February 1888 in the Horton district and baptised on 10 February 1889.25 Joseph was recorded as a farmer at Forest for Helen's baptism, and as living at Kings Forest for Arthur and Henry's baptism.

Three days after Henry's baptism Thomas John Stokes (22) married Harriet Eliza Blake (21) on 13 February 1889 in St. Paul's Glebe in Stanley, Circular Head. The Presbyterian service was conducted by William Anderson Kyd and the witnesses were William Blake, presumably the bride's father, and William Stokes, the groom's brother.26 The presence of William Stokes is indicative perhaps of a close relationship between the two brothers as they were born within two years of each other. Thomas' wife Harriett was born on 31 August 1867 in the Horton district, the daughter of William Blake and Frances Blizzard.27

Albert Richard Stokes was born on 30 May 1890 in the Stanley district.28

Mary Jemima Stokes (adult) married Powell Evans (adult) on 13 January 1892 in Launceston.29

Louisa Maude Stokes was born on 13 June 1892 in the Stanley district.30 Both Louisa and her next youngest sibling Albert were baptised on 8 September 1893 in Stanley.31

Selina Stokes (34) married George Thomas Eaton (40) on 3 April 1894 in Ringarooma.32

John Emanuel Stokes was born on 24 June 1894 in the Stanley district.33

William Henry Stokes (30) married Alice Annie Thorp (24) on 14 February 1896 in the Stanley district.34 Alice Annie Thorp was born on 21 June 1871 in Stanley, the daughter of Henry Thorp and Matilda Eliza House.35 William and Alice Stokes would have five children that have been traced.

Eric Philip Stokes was born on 18 September 1897 in the Stanley district.36 Eric and his next youngest sibling John were baptised on 17 November 1897 in Stanley.37

Edward Stanley Stokes was born on 18 September 1898 in the Stanley district. Edward was baptised on 16 August 1899 in Stanley.38

Samuel Peter Stokes was born on 7 November 1899 in Stanley, Tasmania.39

Helen May Stokes, as Ellen May Stokes, married George Charles Horton on 21 February 1900 in Forest, Tasmania.40 George was born on 23 March 1875 in the Horton district, the son of Samuel Horton and Margaret Smedley.41

Frederick James Stokes married Edith Mary Thorp on 31 July 190A1 in Forest, Tasmania.42 Edith was born about 1870, the daughter of Henry Thorp and Matilda Eliza House, and the sister of Alice Thorp who had married Frederick's brother William.43


A wedding took place at Forest on Wednesday last, the contracting parties being Frederick James Stokes and Edith Mary Thorp, both residing at Forest. The Rev B. D. Morris officiated. A large number of relatives and friends assembled to witness the ceremony, and wish the happy couple 'long life, health and, prosperity.'44

Caroline Margaret Stokes was born on 6 August 1902 in the Stanley district.45 Caroline and her next youngest sibling Samuel were baptised on 4 September 1902 in Stanley.46

The next two years were marked by the loss of two of the boys. Albert Richard Stokes died on 6 February 1903 in Forest. Albert would have only been 12 years old.47 Albert's older brother James Lewis Stokes died on 18 December 1905 at Boat Harbour. His last recorded address was Sister's Creek.48 James has also been recorded as dying in 1896 at the age of 22 from a snake bite, but no such entry exists in the Tasmanian Pioneer Index and this is contradicted by the later death registration.49 It is believed the following newspaper report is related:


Many sad homes came to our memory this Christmas. Three burials have taken place in the one week in our district, in tbe bereaved families of Ferguson, Stokes and Wells. Last December twelve-months Mr T. Wells lost his son Alf; last week he buried his son Arthur. Last year Alf died on December 20, the 20th this year Arthur was buried. Mr J. Stokes' death took place at Boat Harbor, the funeral taking place at Forest cemetery, the Rev G. W. Batten officiating at the grave. Can we not say with one accord we sympathise with the bereaved relations, and may God help them in their sad affliction.50

The last of Joseph Stokes' children was Helean Gelenner Stokes, born on 8 March 1906 at the Black River in Tasmania.51 Once again, all the children's birth registrations recorded their father as Joseph Stokes, not Joseph Richard Stokes or Richard Stokes.

George Edward Stokes married Annie Maria Thorp on 28 October 1908 in St. Bartholomews Church in Forest, Tasmania.52

STOKES- THORPE. One of the prettiest marriage ceremonies in the district eventuated on Wednesday last at St. Bartholomew's Church Forest. The church was most tastefully decorated by the friends of the bridegroom and bride, who are well known and highly respected residents, both being natives of Forest. Mr. George Edwards Stokes was united in the bonds of matrimony to Miss Annie M. Thorp, the officiating clergy man being the rector, Rev. G. W. Ratten. On the bride entering the church the choir sang the marriage hymn, The Voice That Breathed O'er Eden, very creditably. Miss Morgan was able to officiate on this occasion at the organ. As the happy couple walked up the sanctuary to the altar rails the beautiful and appropriate psalm, God Be Merciful Unto Us and Bless Us, was chanted. Mr. George Thorp (uncle of the bride) gave her away. The birde was charmingly attired in cream Sicilian cloth, trimmed with silk insertion, lace sleeves, handsome train, bridal wreath of orange blossoms, and veil. The bridesmaid, Miss Eva May Thorp, looked well in her dress of cream Sicilian cloth (silk stripe), trimmed with cream lace and insertion. The youthful niece of the bride, Miss Leila Mary Stokes, dressed in cream silk and red sash, acted very gracefully as second bridesmaid, and with her brother, Master Leonard H. Stokes, strewed rose leaves from the steps of the church door. The bride carried a pretty shower bouquet, while the Bridesmaids had baskets of flowers.. The groomsman was Mr. Wm., Stokes. The Wedding March was played as the party left the church to adjourn for the wedding breakfast to the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Stokes, who provided a most sumptuous wedding breakfast, at which over 60 guests sat down. The rector, in proposing the health of Mr. and Mrs. Geo. E. Stokes, wished them long life, happiness, and prosperity. The bridegroom suitably responded. The other toasts were : The Bridesmaids and The Host and Hostess, Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Stokes. In the evening some 30 to 40 guests assembled to convey their congratulations and good wishes. The presents were many, all useful. The future residence of the happy couple will be Myrtle Grove.53

Annie was born on 1 January 1884, the daughter of Henry Thorp and Matilda Eliza House.54 This was the third marriage between the Stokes and Thorp families. George and Annie Stokes would go on to have four children that have been traced.

Just over under three years after the marriage of his son George, Joseph Stokes died on 28 August 1911 in Forest, Tasmania at the reported age of 80.55

Mr. Joseph Stokes, aged 80 years, a very old resident of Forest, passed away on Monday last. He was twice married, and had a family of 24 sons and daughters of whom 20 are living. The funeral took place on Tuesday, the Rev. G. W. Ratten officiating at the graveside.56

As with many newspaper reports this is probably slightly exaggerated. Joseph Stokes had 22 children that have been traced, an astounding number nevertheless. The fate of Joseph's remaining children is related in The Later Stokes Family section.

  • 1. TAHO Marriage Registration RGD 1856/119
  • 2. Jen's Tree, citing Brenda Wyllie:
  • 3. TAHO Birth Registration RGD 1857/725 and Baptism Registration NS884/1/14
  • 4. TAHO Birth Registration RGD 1858/786 and Baptism Registration NS884/1/14
  • 5. TAHO Birth Registration RGD 1860/1316 and Baptism Registration NS884/1/14
  • 6. TAHO Birth Registration RGD 1862/778 and Baptism Registration NS884/1/14
  • 7. TAHO Birth Registration RGD 1864/970 and Baptism Registration NS884/1/14
  • 8. TAHO Birth Registration RGD 1866/735 and Baptism Registration NS884/1/14
  • 9. Rootsweb: Circular Head Residents:
  • 10. The Cornwall Chronicle Saturday 16 May 1868
  • 11. TAHO Birth Registration RGD 1868/757 and Baptism Registration NS884/1/14
  • 12. TAHO Birth Registration RGD 1870/790 and Baptism Registration NS884/1/14
  • 13. TAHO Birth Registration RGD 1873/776 and Baptism Registration NS884/1/14
  • 14. TAHO Birth Registration RGD 1874/761 and Baptism Registration NS884/1/14
  • 15. TAHO Death Registration RGD 1874/309
  • 16. TAHO Death Registration RGD 1875/396
  • 17. Launceston Examiner Saturday 29 September 1877
  • 18. TAHO Marriage Registration RGD 1878/481
  • 19. TAHO Birth Registration RGD 1880/1453 and Baptism Registration NS884/1/14
  • 20. TAHO Marriage Registration RGD 1882/529
  • 21. Launceston Examiner Saturday 21 January 1882
  • 22. Australian Dictionary of Biography:
  • 23. TAHO Birth Registration RGD 1883/1174 and Baptism Registration NS884/1/14
  • 24. TAHO Birth Registration RGD 1886/1847 and Baptism Registration NS884/1/14
  • 25. TAHO Birth Registration RGD 1888/1939 and Baptism Registration NS884/1/14
  • 26. TAHO Marriage Registration RGD 1889/112
  • 27. TAHO Birth Registration RGD 1867/XXXX
  • 28. TAHO Birth Registration RGD 1890/3240 and Baptism Registration NS884/1/14
  • 29. TAHO Marriage Registration RGD 1892/463
  • 30. TAHO Birth Registration RGD 1892/2479
  • 31. TAHO Baptism Registration NS884/1/14
  • 32. TAHO Marriage Registration RGD 1894/736
  • 33. TAHO Birth Registration RGD 1894/2358
  • 34. TAHO Marriage Registration RGD 1896/825
  • 35. TAHO Birth Registration RGD 1871/XXXX
  • 36. TAHO Birth Registration RGD 1897/2359
  • 37. TAHO Baptism Registration NS884/1/14
  • 38. TAHO Birth Registration RGD 1898/2340 and Baptism Registration NS884/1/14
  • 39. TAHO Birth Registration RGD 1899/2249
  • 40. TFI Marriage Registration RGD 1900/1141
  • 41. TAHO Birth Registration RGD 1875/XXXX
  • 42. TFI Marriage Registration RGD 1901/1155
  • 43. TAHO Birth Registration RGD 1870/XXXX
  • 44. The North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times Tuesday 6 August 1901
  • 45. TFI Birth Registration RGD 1902/4209
  • 46. TAHO Baptism Registration NS884/1/14
  • 47. TFI Death Registration RGD 1903/1835
  • 48. TFI Death Registration RGD 1905/1478
  • 49. Rootsweb WorldConnect Project:
  • 50. The North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times Tuesday 26 December 1905
  • 51. TFI Birth Registration RGD 1906/4064
  • 52. TAHO Marriage Registration NS 884/5.
  • 53. The North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times 3 November 1908
  • 54. TAHO Birth Registration RGD 1884/1871
  • 55. TFI Death Registration RGD 1911/792
  • 56. The North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times Friday 1 September 1911